It’s not uncommon for veterans to turn to drugs or alcohol during service or when transitioning from active duty to civilian life. These substances may serve as a coping mechanism during the trauma and difficulties of military service, and veterans may need a helping hand to face everyday life.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the most common form of substance misuse among military personnel, and veterans transitioning to civilian life will be susceptible to alcohol-related triggers. By recognizing what may lead to alcohol misuse, vets can develop strategies to overcome them. Some of these triggers are as follows:

  • Anxiety: Many veterans may find the process difficult as they attempt to ease back into civilian life. Social pressures regarding connecting with others are one of the obstacles that may cause a veteran to turn to alcohol during this time. If they socialize with people who don’t know they’ve been in the service, they may feel they can’t relate to them because others won’t understand their experiences. Their social anxiety becomes a trigger to use alcohol to loosen up and connect.
  • Environment: For a veteran dependent on alcohol, it will be tough being in an environment that promotes drinking as the main activity. For example, being in a bar or drinking party is an environment that could provoke them to drink. Even hanging out with friends who always want to drink could prove too much for a veteran trying to stay sober.
  • Lack of routine: If veterans take life as it comes, with no clear direction or routine, it may be tempting to begin using substances. People thrive better with a consistent routine, especially one that is positive and healthy.
  • Boredom: When a vet has nothing productive to do, boredom makes it easy to get sidelined. Military life is anything but boring. There is always something going on, even if it’s difficult. So, if vets come home and are not kept busy, they may be triggered to drink as a way to fill the time.

Veterans can take a proactive approach to alcohol misuse and triggering issues by seeking treatment at a rehab facility. The Recovery Village provides programs and treatments to help veterans struggling with alcohol addiction. Reach out to a Recovery Advocate for more details.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), just over one-fourth of veterans struggle with illicit drugs. Triggers that may get veterans to use drugs include:

  • Escapism from the past: A veteran who has been through traumatic events will want to avoid thinking about these painful memories. They may use drugs to escape and avoid the haunting memories. The things that trigger memories of the past are unique for each veteran, depending on the circumstances.
  • Emotions of the present: Life is full of highs and lows, with many painful situations. Even after returning to civilian life, situations can trigger a veteran’s emotional state. Maybe there is a death, or a relationship breaks up. Loss can be overwhelming for anyone to deal with. Some people turn to drugs to detach from the hurt they’re experiencing.
  • Stressors of life: Veterans may be tempted to use drugs when the stress in life grates on them. For example, balancing household management, interpersonal relationships and financial planning can be complicated after returning to civilian life. Veterans may be triggered to use drugs as a coping mechanism for stress.

If you are a veteran dealing with life’s emotional traumas and are tempted to use drugs, resources and help are available to get you through this transition time. The Recovery Village specializes in veteran alcohol addiction programs. Call our veteran helpline for assistance today.

Mental Health Triggers for Transitioning Veterans

Approximately 30% of veterans struggle with a known mental health condition. This makes transitioning particularly challenging for them. With suicide rates for veterans 57.3% greater than for non-veterans, it’s essential to identify any mental health triggers. The following situations may lead to an increased frequency of mental health episodes:

Lack of sleep: Not getting enough sleep can make anyone feel irritable. For a person with mental health problems, lack of sleep can be a symptom and something that aggravates, creating a vicious cycle. For example, veterans with PTSD often have interrupted sleep, but their mental health can deteriorate without enough sleep. Unsurprisingly, more than 20% of veterans with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.

Unexpected sounds: Another issue that can aggravate the mental state of veterans is a sudden unexpected sound, especially if the sound is similar to what they heard in combat. For example, a car backfiring could cause a veteran’s heart to race from anxiety. Treatment for this may need to focus on the desensitization of triggering sounds.

Loud noises: In addition to the unexpected sounds, veterans may also be triggered by too much noise. Extremely noisy events could seem threatening to veterans who have spent many years staying on guard from danger.

Big crowds: A large group of people may give rise to the veterans’ “fight or flight” instinct, especially if they struggle with PTSD or anxiety disorder. Big crowds may feel like they are closing in on them, which can exacerbate mental health conditions.

Don’t let these or other triggers hold you back from enjoying life. Contact The Recovery Village to start the journey to better mental health.

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Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

The Recovery Village is an industry-leading treatment provider for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. 

  • Experienced clinicians: Our clinicians are specially trained in trauma-informed care, military culture and treating veteran-specific addiction and mental health needs.
  • Dual diagnosis: We treat addiction and mental health disorders like PTSD, anxiety or depression simultaneously for a better recovery.  
  • EMDR: A revolutionary treatment available at several facilities, EMDR therapy alleviates mental pain and emotional recession from trauma, which can lead to better outcomes for your addiction.
  • FORTITUDE: Our specialty track for veterans and first responders at select facilities puts you in exclusive group therapy sessions with your peers. 

If you’re a veteran struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, our Veteran Advocates can help you navigate your VA health insurance and get you the help you need.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Treatment for Military Families

Military families also need support when welcoming their loved ones back to civilian life. There are many adjustments they must make to help deal with the difficulties that their veteran family members face.

During this critical transition time, military families benefit from accessing available resources through rehab facilities, such as The Recovery Village. They can attend family therapy with their loved ones to show support and gain tools to assist them when triggers arise. Contact us today. Together, veterans and their families can find hope for the future!

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.